For Immediate Release: January 10th, 2014
Non-Partisan Report Details the Impacts Of Not Expanding Medicaid
Suggests “Scores of Deaths” Could Be Averted Had the Governor Opted to Expand Medicaid
ANCHORAGE – Governor Parnell’s decision to deny Medicaid coverage to more than 40,000 working Alaskans unable to afford health insurance will have a variety of negative consequences – from poorer health and needless suffering for some Alaskans to higher health insurance premiums for others, according to a new report by the nonpartisan Legislative Research Agency.
The report examines impacts of the Governor’s decision on uninsured Alaskans, those with private insurance, health care facilities in Alaska, jobs for Alaskans, and federal funding coming to the state.
One of the most noteworthy findings concerns the health of Alaskans who will now not be eligible for free medical care as a result of the Governor’s decision.
The report describes a study published in the respected New England Journal of Medicine in September 2012 which found that “mortality for all ages and causes was reduced by an average of 19.6 deaths per 100,000 individuals” each year in three states where Medicaid was expanded from 1997-2007.
The study examined health outcomes for 68,012 adults in Arizona, New York and Maine for five years before and after their Medicaid expansions took place. This group was then compared to populations in neighboring states where expansions did not occur.
While the report notes that “applying specific numeral finding to Alaska’s uninsured population based on these findings would be improper and problematic” due to “differences among populations and Medicaid eligibility thresholds,” the broad findings are “generally applicable.” On page 5, the author notes:
“Even if half the reduction in mortality found in the study on Medicaid expansions in Arizona, Maine and New York were to occur in Alaska under the ACA provision, scores of deaths would ultimately be averted among the roughly 40,000 currently uninsured Alaskans that could be expected to enroll in Medicaid by 2020.” (Emphasis added.)
“This is the report’s most disturbing conclusion,” said Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage). “Alaskans with treatable medical conditions will likely lose their lives simply because the Governor is unwilling to expand the Medicaid program, especially since the federal government has offered to pay one hundred percent of the cost for the next three years and 90 percent thereafter.”
The report summarizes findings from other research institutions, including the Institute of Medicine within the National Academy of Sciences:
A “robust body of well-designed high-quality research provides compelling findings about the harms of being uninsured and the benefits of gaining health insurance for both children and adults. Despite the availability of some safety net services, there is a chasm between the health care needs of people without health insurance and access to effective health care services. This gap results in needless suffering, illness and even death.” (Emphasis added.)
In 2002, the Institute of Medicine concluded that uninsured adults under 65 have a 25 percent higher risk of dying than their peers with health insurance. The Urban Institute updated this finding in 2008 and estimated that in 2006 alone 22,000 Americans died due to lack of health insurance.
Senator Wielechowski called on the Governor to review these findings and reconsider his decision before legislators return to Juneau on January 21.
The Legislative Research report also describes the impacts of expanding Medicaid and other provisions of the Affordable Care Act on health insurance premiums for individual Alaskans and Alaskan businesses.
Researchers with the University of Missouri Department of Health Informatics found that in 2009 the cost of treating Alaskans without insurance added $257 to the cost of health insurance premiums for insured Alaskans. Expanding the number of Alaskans with Medicaid coverage coupled with other provisions of the Affordable Care Act is projected to reduce this cost-shifting by more than 85 percent.
“All Alaskans bear the cost of treating those who are uninsured,” Senator Wielechowski said. “It’s a hidden tax, and it’s time we lifted that burden. Expanding Medicaid offers an affordable and effective way to do that.”
The report also reiterates the findings of previous research regarding the number of jobs that Medicaid expansion would likely create in Alaska: 1,500 new jobs in 2014 alone and 4,000 jobs by 2020, providing $220 million in wages.
“There are so many compelling reasons to expand the Medicaid program at this juncture,” Wielechowski added. “From economic reasons as we face growing budget deficits to humanitarian ones, expanding Medicaid is simply the right thing to do. I urge Governor Parnell to reconsider his decision before the start of the legislative session on January 21.”
To view the non-partisan Legislative Research Services report, click here:
To view the article in the New England Journal of Medicine, click here:
For more information contact Senator Bill Wielechowski at (907) 242-1558.